TSPDT Greatest Films #282 Ma Nuit chez Maud (Éric Rohmer, 1969)
To pay a tribute to one of the most important figures of the French New Wave and of the French film history, Eric Rohmer who just past away this week I choose to discover and analyze one of his better works; Ma Nuit chez Maud (1969). Being the third chapter of his six moral tales, Maude's is for many his best film. I'm ashamed to say that before saturday January 16 2010 I haven't seen one of his films. This short essay will try to pay tribute and erase my lack knowledge about Rohmer's films.
Ma Nuit chez Maude starts with the main character, Jean-Louis, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant as a 34 years old engineer converted to catholicism who believes in true love. He will confront his ideas with one of his best friends Vidal and the newly encountered Maude (who are by the way atheists) about their visions on life, love, friendship, Pascal, and marriage. In the beginning, Jean-Louis says he's gonna marry Françoise but slowly falls in love with Maude and her straightforward attitude.
The narrative of the film stands close to Antonioni's style, who is a big influence on Rohmer's films, with clean and shaky black and white images, long takes; especially with the openning sequence which is silent for nearly five minutes. The scenes are long and the characters slowly enter and exit the image. This is clearly a French New Wave film but many aspects of it are taken from the Italian Neorealism especially. Rohmer tried to minimize the narrative effects on his story to take his Film as near as possible to reality. That's something, the Italian Neorealists wanted to do, especially Antonioni and Rossellini. On the other hand, Rohmer was openly a supporter of the work of Hitchcock and Hawks as the other directors of the French New Wave. Some narrative elements of Ma Nuit chez Maude are directly taken from those two masters who never hesitated to insert long silent sequences into their films. The esthetic and the camera angles are clearly influenced by the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The story of the film may seem a little flaw with its slow rythm but when it all comes into place it fits perfectly. I think it may have influenced Sofia Coppola on her Lost in Translation.
I didn't really got into Ma Nuit chez Maud in the first place. But after a little refexion and some time I think it's a very deep film that enters your mind and works on it. In this case, I think it's a great movie especially when afterward it continues to grow within you. I'm proud of letting myself immerge into Eric Rohmer's filmography.
Reposez en paix Monsieur Rohmer!
A film Retrospective by Michaël Parent